Public sector customer service experience falls short

More than 80 per cent of respondents in a survey of customer experience in the Australian and New Zealand public sector believe government agencies need to lift their game.

Phillip Bland, Industry Advisor for Public Sector Solution Strategy

The research conducted in November 2021 by US-based market research company Qualtrics, is based on insights from 1,500 respondents from Australia and New Zealand.

Most of the respondents, 83 per cent, said government agencies need to improve the customer experience.

“In particular, people wanted to see customer service, communications, and ease of use for products and services improved the most,” the report said.

Sixty-six per cent said that customer experience also influenced their decision to get a Covid vaccine, and 53 per cent said their experience affected the way they vote.

Digital transformation

Going digital is one way to improve customer experience, according to the research.

“As government agencies look to design new and improved experiences for 2022 and beyond, digital is going to be critical in helping residents find information and engage with services.”

Most of these changes have come about as a result of the pandemic, with the needs, behaviours and attitudes of residents and employees evolving.

“For most residents and employees, this is a new way of operating. And as the world continues to move forward few will want to return to the old ways of doing things,” the report said.

“It’s a reality that means the coming months are critical for public sector organisations as they continue to navigate and adapt to changes caused by the pandemic.”

Almost half of the respondents, 47 per cent, said they now expect to access government services digitally most or all of the time, with 36 per cent saying at least some of the time.

“The adoption of digital for the public sector is positive news, given a third (32 per cent) of respondents said they are more satisfied using digital services.”

COVID-19 services, including proof of vaccination status, contact tracing and check-ins, came out on top when respondents ranked government services by satisfaction.

“This has raised the bar for how government agencies interact with residents and opens the door for changes to other services, from health and education to transport and infrastructure,” the report said.

However, going completely digital is not the way to go, according to the report.

“While digital platforms are important in helping improve the experience for residents, it should not be the automatic default for every government agency.

“The type of interaction will likely determine residents’ preferred channels. As a result, taking a hybrid approach – whereby residents get the same experience regardless of how they choose to interact – should be a key consideration within the digital strategies being implemented.”

Talent retention

Talent retention within the public sector is also a problem, the research found.

Although 86 per cent of public sector employees said they were engaged at work, 40 per cent of indicated they plan to quit their jobs this year.

Respondents said they were dissatisfied with the recruitment process, with 38 per cent saying it was below their expectations.

Some of them, eight per cent, would not apply for a job in the sector again, and 12 per cent would not recommend people apply for a job in the sector.

Phillip Bland, Industry Advisor for Public Sector Solution Strategy at Qualtrics, said competition for new talent is rising and, in the public sector, candidates and employees are also all citizens.

“It’s therefore especially vital that the public sector gets the experience right for both groups, especially as we know negative experiences can have knock-on consequences,” he said in a statement.

“By understanding and delivering the types of experiences people want at work, government agencies will be in a stronger position to attract and retain a purpose driven high performing workforce.”

Somewhat surprisingly, salary was not a deal breaker for most respondents.

“The chance to do meaningful work is the top factor when applying for a government role, followed by flexible working arrangements,” the report said.  

“Working with great people, reputation, and office location are also considered more important than salary.”

To improve the recruitment process, Qualtrics recommends implementing a process for feedback.

“By capturing feedback from candidates throughout the process, government agencies can identify what’s working, what isn’t, and what can be done to drive continuous improvements.”

Findings from the study were built on Qualtrics’ recent 2021 Consumer Trends study, where customer service support, communications and ease of use for products and services were highlighted as top areas for public sector agencies to improve.

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